The goals came quickly, and all of a sudden, Niskayuna was in control of what had been a tight sectional lacrosse game against Saratoga Springs.
“There were some things we had been working on in practice for this game,” Niskayuna senior Emily Ryan said after scoring four goals in Tuesday’s 16-7 Class A quarterfinal win. “We just kind of figured it out.”
Niskayuna connected for five unanswered goals spanning the halves to open up a 10-5 lead, and went on to beat Saratoga for the third time this season while ending the varsity coaching career of Blue Streaks’ veteran mentor Sue Hoffman.
Hoffman, who announced she is retiring, started the girls’ lacrosse program at Saratoga in the mid-1980s, and helped make the Blue Streaks the dominant team in the early years of the Capital District Women’s Lacrosse League.
“She’s the reason we have what we have today. Sue and a couple of others started this,” Niskayuna coach Peter Melito said. “We’re losing a good person on the sideline.”
The Blue Streaks (No. 6 seed, 5-11) played an inspired game in the first half, tying it at one and two on goals by Emily Lange and knotting it again at five on Caroline Crandall’s tally with 2:42 left.
“We came with waves of energy, but I think we ran out of gas,” said Hoffman. “I’m not going to lie. Doing the dirty work going up and down the field took something out of us.”
Kayla Treanor began Niskayuna’s decisive run on a free-position drive, one of her four goals, and the two-time All-American also collected a school record-tying six assists. Freshman Bri Sacks scored three goals for the defending Section II champions (No. 3 seed, 12-4), Kelly Schlansker notched two goals, and eighth-grade netminder Asa Goldstock stopped five free-position shots among her nine saves.
“I told my team, ‘They’re going to be fired up. They’re going to be pumped up,’ ” Melito said. “They want to extend the career of their coach and keep her on the field for another game. That was the challenge we faced.”
Niskayuna met it by producing 11 of the game’s final 13 goals, and earned a semifinal rematch Thursday at Shaker (No. 2. 14-1). The Blue Bison beat Columbia (No. 7, 4-12) Tuesday, 17-1.
“It was offense, defense and midfield today. We had great ball movement. We got the ground balls and won 50-50 battles,” said Ryan. “It was definitely a team effort from one end to the other. If we keep this up, we can go far.”
Hoffman’s teams had been on the other end in so many sectional games in past years. Each of her seven teams from 1992-98 won Section II titles, the six after that made it to the area final, and the six after that reached the semifinal round.
Niskayuna handed Saratoga its first quarterfinal defeat last year, 15-7, before duplicating the feat in Tuesday’s contest.
“Her success is what pushed the rest of us to build our programs,” said Melito. “Sue is such a big reason why lacrosse has grown in this area.”
Niskayuna’s lead grew and grew after goals by Molly Kern and Crandall evened things at 5-5. After Treanor broke the tie, she assisted on a Carrie Hanks goal with two seconds left in the half. Cat Sexton, Ryan and Treanor delivered in a span of 2:06 early in the second half before Lange answered with her third goal.
“We had a couple of bad breaks on calls. Not that they were wrong calls, but our offense had to work so hard to get in position, and then we had to give it back,” said Hoffman. “You could see the air come out of our balloon a little bit.
Sacks sandwiched goals around one by Ryan as Niskayuna’s lead swelled to 13-6, and Treanor, Jill Macri and Schlansker followed with goals.
“I definitely think they [Saratoga] improved, but we did, as well,” said Ryan. “Maybe we took a couple of steps further.”
“This team definitely improved as we went along,” said Hoffman. “That’s what I’ve always strived for. I’m proud of them.”
Niskayuna will be tring to repeat history when it plays Shaker. The Silver Warriors lost to the Blue Bison twice last season before winning a 7-6 semifinal, and then topped Guilderland, 15-14, for the large-school flag.
Shaker owns 7-5 and 10-7 wins over Niskayuna this season.
“It’s going to be a battle,” said Melito. “Both teams have a lot of pride and are going to lay it all on the field.
Saratoga Springs 5 2 — 7
Niskayuna 7 9 — 16
Saratoga Springs scoring: Emily Lange 3-0, Bri Sirianni 1-1, Molly Kern 1-0, Caroline Crandall 1-0, Emma Kern 0-1, Celia D’Agostino 1-1. Niskayuna scoring: Emily Ryan 4-0, Bri Sacks 3-0, Kayla Treanor 4-6, Cat Sexton 1-1, Kelly Schlansker 2-0, Carrie Hanks 1-2, Anna Picardi 0-1, Jill Macri 1-0.
Goaltenders: Saratoga Springs, Lauryn Huck, 7 saves. Niskayuna, Asa Goldstock, 9 saves.